Empowering peer support

It takes a lot of effort for parents to support a young person with special needs. Getting enough support and taking care of your ability to cope is vital for parents to have enough strength to be both parents and supporters. It is important to think of ways that help you cope with everyday life, such as hobbies, meeting friends and doing something you enjoy. You should surround yourself with people who listen to and support you in your daily life. Sometimes it may be important to also talk about things with an outsider. Feelings of tiredness and doubt are normal in some situations and phases of life, and they do not make any parent a failure or any worse than others.

“Acceptance means forging a new relationship with something that cannot be changed.”

Peer support can be extremely important. Peer support can improve the parent’s ability to cope, which gives them more resources and helps them cope with daily life better. Studies show that peer support helps to reduce feelings of loneliness, stigmatization and anxiety, among others, and various fears related to one’s situation in life.

Peer support provides help and relief quickly in difficult situations and is empowering. An understanding built on shared experiences creates a safe atmosphere where you can discuss personal, even painful issues. Hearing the stories of others in similar situations helps you make sense of your life and that of the young person and the family, and to realize that there are others in a similar situation. Other parents can also provide concrete advice and tips for solving problems and give you new perspectives into things. They may have already overcome the same challenges that are new to you.

“Small interactions can have a big impact. It is not until you meet others in the same situation that you understand how important peer support truly is.”

Finding a form of peer support that suits you can promote your ability to cope. The peer groups of the member associations of Autism Finland and the peer evenings of Autism Finland provide opportunities to discuss and share experiences, as do the chats organized by Autism Finland in Tukinet. In addition, the websites NäeNepsy (in Finnish) and Erityisvoimia (in Finnish) contain testimonial stories and plenty of information and materials.

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